Hello Old Friend

I hate goodbyes. I hate goodbyes in the airport. I hate goodbyes at parties. I hate goodbyes at the doorstep of your family or friend’s house that you don’t want to leave. Goodbyes are the worst.

I said goodbye to my friend Beth over seven years ago. Beth was looking for a fresh start so she packed up and headed to the West Coast. A goodbye like that is never fun because you never know when you’re going to see them again. Beth and I did stay in touch over the years thanks to modern technology and we managed to squeeze in a few face-to-face visits.

Fast forward seven years and three cities later on Beth’s U.S. tour, I now get to say hello. Hello Old Friend. In fact I could yell “HELLO!” out my kitchen window and as of today, Beth could probably hear me and shout it right back (or maybe “Hello Hertel!”). My old friend is back in Buffalo, North Buffalo to be exact. Beth is back in Buffalo for a variety of reasons but I’m sure she’d tell you that family, a good job and the buzz about Buffalo on the rise is what actually made her pull the trigger.

What made her choose North Buffalo? I’ll let her weigh in on that:

  • Hertel has a hip/fun vibe.
  • Great access to Delaware Park so I can get my run on.
  • Short commute to work.
  • My bestie lives there and she’s a reliable source on the cool places to live.
  • I want to have direct access to Kostas every day.

Hello Old Friend. Welcome Home.

Congratulations North Buffalo. We got another good one! Who’s next?



Doubles at Delaware

Field of DreamsLike the ghosts from Field of Dreams that emerged from the Iowa corn fields to play pick up baseball, there’s a dedicated group of living athletes that make their way down the trails and through the trees to a secluded corner of Delaware Park each summer week for doubles volleyball.

Now I would consider myself a regular in the local (intermediate) volleyball scene, playing on different teams year round at places like IV Stallions in Cheektowaga, Rose Garden in Lancaster, and Nichols School in Hertel Ave’s backyard.  I’ve made a ton of friends and even impressed the 6’7” terror, Jay Josker, enough for him to honor me with my own twitter hashtag…which I, in turn, made into a tee-shirt.  flashandsmashMolly McDermid has adopted me as her own overaggressive middle hitter and sometimes we look like we know what we’re doing and other times it’s just silly.  The leagues are as fun as they are competitive, filled with bazaar team names, friendly trash talking and some intense rivalries.

So despite having a place in many indoor court and outdoor sand leagues, somehow, this summer doubles league, played on grass and so close to home, eluded me.  It wasn’t until the above mentioned Molly, who knows every volleyball league, court, ref and player in WNY, said I should come check it out and play on her team. So I did. And it’s glorious.

My first time playing I struggled a bit to find my footing.  Playing barefoot in the sand is a no brainer, but grass? It can go both ways. So I tried both ways. Surprisingly barefoot provides better traction than sneakers. It was also easy to adjust to having only one teammate as opposed to four or five. So now that I’ve got the beginner issues of where the hell is this place, what are the doubles rules, what do I wear, etc. out the way, I’m ready to make this regular habit.

Thom Burnett, organizer and Saranac neighbor, had a vision over 30 years ago that if he built volleyball courts in the middle of a grassy field, people would come play volleyball. I envision James Earl Jones saying “People will come, Thom. People will most definitely come.”

So my guess is that one day, he strapped on his canvas converse all-stars and set up shop.  He found an isolated green in the park, lined by trees and backdropped by the serene beauty of Hoyt Lake. Now, each week, the story unfolds the same way. People emerge, set up, play, break down, and leave. They play for the love of the game. It’s not about winning or losing (said the occasional loser). It’s about the friendships, the exercise, and the incredible privilege we Buffalonians have to play a game in the middle of an Olmsted masterpiece in the middle of our great city.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Buffalo.